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Label Play

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A “CRITTER LABEL” WORTH REMEMBERING

At a recent conference, I heard the founder of Firefly Vodka cite the inspiration for his signature label as “critter wines,” a reference to the ever-expanding menagerie of cuddly kangaroos, darling dachshunds, and otherwise adorable members of the animal kingdom being prominently featured on wine bottle labels. Unfortunately, in many cases the cuteness of these critters seems to be compensating for something, namely the quality of the bottles’ contents.

Photo courtesy of Bjoern Lanwer Selections
Photo courtesy of Bjoern Lanwer Selections

But let me introduce you to an exception. With an impressive 91 points from Robert Parker’s wine advocate, “LePrince” wine from Bjoern Lanwer Selections was one of 2012’s best Côtes du Rhones. A fleshy red balance of Grenache, syrah, mourvedre and cinsault, the wine also happens to feature a critter, albeit a beautiful hand-painted egret created by Charleston artist Kevin LePrince.

The story behind the bird began when Lanwer realized that, in translating a French wine for an American market, consumers were struggling to recognize appellations. “He realized that if you try a bottle that is a French import and think ‘wow, I like that!’ and the next time you go into the grocery store you are sitting there trying to remember ‘well, what address was that from?’ you have almost no chance of remembering it,” explains LePrince. “But by using art for the labels it creates a brand through an image that people are able to remember and recognize.”

When Lanwer came across LePrince’s artwork at a museum gala fundraiser in which more than twenty of LePrince’s paintings sold, inspiration was born. Lanwer recognized that LePrince’s ability to create vivid creatures with a sense of life and character would be an ideal fit for his wines, and LePrince was honored to collaborate.

“I didn’t really paint anything different then what I normally would paint. We wanted a bird with a long neck, tall, with some personality. And Bjoern himself is kind of a tall, lanky guy… Everyone felt like they could see him in the egret.”

Editor’s Note: “LePrince” wine is currently available at Ted’s Butcher BlockO’Hara & FlynnStars and Sermet’s in Charleston, SC and throughout Fresh Markets nationally. Two new wines in the series, complete with LePrince’s critters, are slated to come out in the next year, “Le Trois,” with a label featuring three birds and “Leap of Faith” which will feature a frog.